Big game harvest numbers down in Western Montana

Nov. 3—Harvest numbers are down at game check stations in Western Montana through the second week of the general big game hunting season.

While harvest numbers are lower for white-tailed and mule deer in Northwest Montana, elk are on par with 2022.

More than 3,100 hunters have appeared at regional game check stations over the last two weekends. Check stations are open on weekends during general deer and elk hunting season from 10 a.m. to approximately 1.5 hours past sunset. The regional stations are located at U.S. Highway 2 West of Kalispell, Montana Highway 83 north of Swan Lake, Highway 200 west of Thompson Falls, and Highway 93 near Olney.

The white-tailed deer harvest is 170, including 88 bucks. In 2022, through the first two weekends, hunters bagged 258 deer, including 88 bucks. For mulies, 16 have been checked so far while last year had 28. Hunters checked 21 elk this year while it was 22 a year ago.

The U.S. 2 check station west of Kalispell has had 11 elk reported while Thompson Falls has eight.

In West-Central Montana, which includes stations at Darby, Anaconda and Bonner, the elk harvest was 134, down from 147 in 2022. Mule and white-tailed deer numbers were also lower than last year.

Snowfall began last week across most of the region and the National Weather Service is advising recreationists to be prepared for rain in the valleys and snow in the mountains this week.

Hunters must stop at any check station they encounter whether they harvested an animal or not. The counts at the stations represent a sampling of the harvest and do not represent the complete number of animals taken.

For an estimate of big game harvests from years' past, visit

Montana's general deer and elk hunting season runs from Oct. 21-Nov. 26, 2023. Other general hunting seasons underway include black bear (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), bighorn sheep (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), moose (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), mountain lion (fall season without dogs, Oct. 22-Nov. 27), mountain goat (Sept. 15-Nov. 26), turkey (Sept. 1-Jan. 1), and wolf (Sept. 15-March 15, 2024).

Chronic Wasting Disease

Testing for chronic wasting disease (CWD) is voluntary throughout the state. FWP can assist hunters with sample collection and submission, or hunters can submit samples themselves.

CWD is a fatal disease that infects members of the deer family, including elk, moose, mule deer, and white-tailed deer. Hunters play a key role in minimizing the spread of CWD and providing data.

In northwest Montana, hunters can bring their harvested animal to the FWP office in Kalispell, Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. FWP staff will also assist with CWD sample collection at weekend game check stations across the region when possible and safety allows, based on traffic at the station. Stopping at game check stations remains mandatory.

The CWD sampling station in Libby will operate Saturdays, Sundays, and Mondays, 10 a.m. to 1.5 hours past sunset at the Montana Department of Transportation shop on U.S. Highway 2 south of town. Hunters are not required to stop at the Libby CWD sampling station.

FWP will cover the cost of testing hunter-harvested animals for CWD.

Hunters who want their animal sampled should leave 2 to 4 inches of the neck below the low jawbone and base of the skull to ensure lymph nodes are present and not inadvertently left with the carcass. Samples cannot be collected from frozen heads.

To help prevent the spread of CWD, all carcasses, including the head and spinal column, must be disposed of in a class II landfill after butchering and processing. Dumping carcasses is illegal, unethical and can spread diseases, including chronic wasting disease. This requirement applies to all deer, elk, and moose carcasses harvested by hunters or as vehicle-killed salvage.

For a list of proper landfills for disposal, instructional videos, and more info on CWD in Montana, visit

Northwest Montana (Region 1) Reminders

Hunters should plan ahead and review the regulations for each hunting district they plan to hunt.

Elk hunting is brow-tined bull only in Region 1 (northwest Montana) except in Hunting District 170, unless a hunter has an antlerless elk permit. Certain hunting districts also allow hunters who posses a Permit to Hunt from a Vehicle (PTHFV) to harvest an antlerless elk (check regulations for specifics). A brow-tined bull is defined as, "any elk having an antler or antlers with a visible point on the lower half of either main beam that is greater than or equal to four inches long."

Hunters who purchased the limited 199-20 either-sex white-tailed deer B license can only use that license within the Libby CWD Management Zone. For more info, visit

Many private lands that were historically owned by corporate timber companies have changed ownership, and hunters should review the Block Management Program for Region 1 to view available public access opportunities and restrictions on private lands. Visit

Hunters should "Be Bear Aware" and properly store food and carcasses. Hunters should avoid hanging carcasses near houses or garages. Carcasses should be suspended at least 10 feet above the ground and 4 feet out from any upright support. Hunters are encouraged to carry bear spray and know how to use it. More food storage and safety information are available on the FWP website at

The toll-free hotline for reporting wildlife poaching, property damage, and violations of Montana fish and game laws is in operation 24 hours a day. If you witness a fish and game violation, or property vandalism, you can report the crime by calling 1-800-TIP-MONT (1-800-847-6668); or report a violation online at Callers may remain anonymous and may be eligible for a cash reward.